Arsenal Football Club Supporters consultative Forum 2006/2007 Season
Meeting held at 11am, South Club Level, Saturday 18th November 2006.

Attendees (in alphabetical order):
CAMPBELL, Sue - Arsenal F.C
COXHEAD, Stephen - Red Member
DOCHERTY, Amanda - Arsenal F.C
DOWD, Chris - Silver Member
EDELMAN, Keith - Arsenal F.C.
ELLIS, Paul - Arsenal Supporters Club - Norfolk
FORD, Adrian - Arsenal F.C
GOODWIN, Steve - AISA Representative
GOSNELL, Peter - Disabled Supporter Representative
GOULDING, Peggy - Arsenal Supporters Club - St Thomas’s Road
HALFPENNY, Mark - Silver Member
LASER, Ronald - Club Level Representative
MILES, David - Arsenal F.C.
MIRZOIAN, Olga - 16-21 yr Old Representative
NOORGAARD, Henrik - Overseas Supporter Representative
O’BRIEN, Michael - Arsenal F.C.
RANDS, Neil - Gold Member
ROBERTS, Elliot - Electoral Reform Services (Independent Chair)
SENIOR, Philippa — Family Enclosure Representative
SMITH, Jill - Arsenal F.C
STANZER, Philip - Gold Member
TANGO, Lee - Red Member
WALFORD, Richard - Metropolitan Police

Note: Agendas will be sent prior to the next meeting.

Minutes of the last meeting:

2 different figures were noted for Gold and Platinum members - the correct figure is 43,000.

Is there any news on the ticket allocation for any potential final?

There are different ways of doing this and we'll welcome any feedback from AISA or the Forum. There is no definitive right answer on how these are allocated, as there will always be some fans not able to get tickets. In the past we have always given an allocation of tickets to away scheme members who have been to every away game and we think that's fair. We will also factor in that fans that have home season tickets should also have a chance to get cup final tickets. We will also allocate tickets to supporters clubs. It must be noted that Club level members will have no ticketing rights over and above normal season ticket holders. In terms of any balloting procedure we use, we think its right that each ballot will be mutually exclusive. As a club, we also restrict the number of tickets that directors, sponsors and players can get - we believe we are the most draconian club in terms of this aspect of allocation.
We'll come out with an announcement hopefully before Christmas.

In terms of general ticketing, we will be expanding the family enclosure section from 3,500 to 4,000, which has an impact on Silver and Red members, but thus far silver and red members have had the opportunity to buy tickets for every home game.

Are there any developments of the clock?

We wanted the clock inside, but we came to the conclusion that it wasn't a realistic option. It is a part of the stadium - it is going to be on the outside giant screen - as you work up the stairs you will be able to see it. It's on the South East side of the stadium.

On another stadium structure issue - we know that there are some leaks in the roof and they will be attended to over the next few months. The middle tier has now been decorated. Sponsors logos will be going on the lower tier, with white backgrounds.

Any more news on Thomas Cook advertising tickets?

We have spoken with Thomas Cook and they are now only selling their allocation of tickets as part a wider travel / accommodation package.

Ticketing

What is the clubs' policy on the transfer of tickets to friends/family members - there was a story of one supporter selling on his tickets at face value and being prosecuted.

We don't comment on individual cases - our overall club policy is that we will ban any fan from the stadium who has been prosecuted by the police for ticket touting - we feel that we're very clear on this. We want all fans to see the stadium as a good environment to watch a football game.

We support the police on their strategy and we understand that a lot of evidence is required for a successful prosecution on touting - the threshold required to prove a case is quite high - we think overall that they are doing a good job on this and 4 or 5 times a year they focus on this. Even if there isn't enough evidence for a prosecution, we can still ban fans - we can set our own policy on this. One thing we sometimes do as a club is to buy tickets from touts and then ban them from the stadium.

We are developing a buy-back scheme which will hopefully be ready for next season, which will enable people to transfer their tickets in a clean and efficient way - we obviously understand that fans may sometimes transfer their tickets to friends or family, but it must be stated that it is ultimately each individual who is responsible for their own membership. We banned 5 people from the last home game who passed on their tickets in an inappropriate manner. The legislation surrounding this has also affected how we give tickets to our supporters at away games on the day of a match - we now need to do this inside the buses of the supporters clubs. The law is pretty explicit on the selling of football match tickets, at any price, outside a stadium. If required, we can give letters to supporters' clubs, giving them permission to collect money for tickets on the day.

Stadium Appearance

Would the club consider the display of flags around the stadium to cover trophies, club crest and nationalities of the player - to show the international dimension of Arsenal - you could put something in the four corners along the line of United Colours of Arsenal?

It sounds like a good idea - we may need planning permission to follow it through, depending on where it might go. At the moment we're focusing on the development and appearance of the inside of the stadium. For example, we're currently working on the players' areas and corridors, which are plain white at the moment - we're looking at putting digital photographs on the walls- a hall of fame of previous and current players and trophies we've won in the past - hopefully this will create an intimidating atmosphere for the opposition. We are looking to have this completed by the end of January.

The Arsenal sign above is the Armoury is grey - can this be changed?

The Architects favourite colour was grey when they were designing the stadium! We are slowly but surely personalising the stadium and this area is something we're looking at. It's currently a process of prioritisation - there are lots of other things that require development e.g. putting air-conditioning in the Arsenal shop.

The theme days worked really well last year - will we be having them again?

They did work well and were appropriate for the last year at Highbury, this season we are working on getting the stadium functioning well at an operational level. We are looking to resurrect them for next season as fans seem to like them, although we will say the more sparingly they're used, the more successful they are. This season we will be celebrating important dates in Arsenals' history - e.g. the club will be 120 years old in December. We could show on the large screen some footage of the "firsts" topic we cover in the programme. We want to get some feedback on what we're showing on the large screens.

Policing & Stewarding at the Emirates

[Richard Woolford and Ian Bond were in attendance at the meeting, representing the Metropolitan Police.]

We feel there is a zero tolerance approach from the police and stewards on certain issues e.g. singing and standing up.

We have to state that some of these policies are in direct response to complaint letters that the club receive e.g. standing at football matches - blocks the view of children directly behind. There are rules and regulations about the behaviour of fans inside football stadiums, some of which stem from the Taylor Report. It is explicit in terms of what can and can't happen at football games. They are not dictated by the club or the Police but these bodies have to enforce them. This includes standing and certain types of chanting - the club is ultimately accountable as to what takes place inside the stadium. We try to act with proportionality in everything we do and the best way of achieving this is to deal with issues early on before anything escalates. If fans are perpetually standing up, the club will be fined by the football licensing authorities and it also effects the enjoyment of other fans in the stadium. Most complaints are about persistent standing during the game.

In terms of away fans - we will try and identify the main culprits who start it off and try to stop it before it starts. We have to make a strategic decision on the behaviour of away fans - to tackle 1-2,000 fans who are persistently standing is not in the best interests of the police or the home fans watching the game - you can imagine the risks involved in that - this comes back to our policy of proportionality. Over time, away fans who behave in this way will have reduced ticket allocations for future games. But we still have to police our home fans according to legislation. The Football licensing authority has commented on the consistency of approach at Arsenal games.

We as a club feel we've made a good start in terms of policing and stewarding at the new stadium, but we're still learning as to what works and where improvements can be made - this also applies to the trafficking of fans before and after game. I personally [K Edelman] believe that our stewards are not customer friendly enough and we are working on that. This is partly due to the number of organisations overseeing what we're doing, including the local authority. We are trying to shift the emphasis away from a blanket no to investigating as to whether we can ultimately say yes.

On the policing side, not all police who work on match-days are from the London Borough of Islington - on the first game at the new stadium, we had over 500 police working here as it was an unknown quantity as to what might happen on the day. We are continually evolving our policing strategy, in conjunction with the club and the local authority. We are also responding to comments from fans, including comments on isolated police officers, who may be from other boroughs and who may not work with fans in the way we want them to. We try to balance the needs of fans with the needs of local residents - which include attending the East Area committee meetings.

We also had to manage the streams of fans for the first few games, with people trying out and discovering new ways to get to and leave the stadium. After the first game, we did seriously consider closing the North Bridge, just because of the volume of fans using it. Our policy is continually evolving and we are removing cordons were we now think it's safe to do so. We understand that the reasons behind why cordons are put in place are not always communicated to fans effectively and sometimes discretion can be applied for special cases e.g. people with disabilities. We are working towards a position where police don't need to direct fans, but we always have this contingency if required.

In terms of transport, we always knew that Finsbury Park would be a pinch point - we've sat down with TFL and LUL in how to manage the people flow there. From November 30th, the hoardings that are currently there will be taken down and we hope that this will enable us to streamline traffic management more effectively in the forecourt area and we hope to get more movement of fans in this area. As a club, we believe the police are very supportive and we've worked very closely with them as new issues have arisen around the new stadium.

Is there a way of removing the cordons for people who aren't going to use transport?

Unfortunately, when you're dealing with thousands of fans over a very short time period, it's very difficult to filter out groups of fans going in different directions/different pubs etc. If a cordon is removed for a few people, it can create a lot of problems and potential tension. There was an instance at Horsell Road where the cordon was removed and hundreds of people went through, causing chaos to local transport routes. There are other routes that fans can take to get to pubs etc. Because we have such a good working relationship with the club, we feel we can adapt to information that the club provides to us.

We sell drinks to fans after the game, which will hopefully help in staggering the numbers of people leaving the stadium at any point in time. We're also gathering information from fans and asking them for their experiences on match days.

Will the club introduce a bell system at club level and concourses so that fans know when the match has kicked off / re-started? It is very irritating having to get up and down from your seat at the start of each half and towards the end of the game for fans arriving and leaving. The seat design doesn't help with this. Can the club look at incentive policies to encourage fans to be at their seats on time?

The club have now started making P.A announcements 5 minutes before the start of each game. There are 2 distinct issues here - we can look at letting people know when the game is in play, but we can't force people to be in their seats - if they want to spend the first 5 minutes of each half finishing their drink, it is their free choice. Our view is that we want to encourage fans to watch 90 minutes of football.

Other Discussion points

Why was nobody available for comment after the recent defeat to West Ham?

The manager was furious at the end of the game and decided not to comment. We respected that decision and nobody else then thought it was appropriate to comment after that decision. It was unusual in the sense in that it was the first time it's happened at Arsenal for nearly 10 years - the manager wanted time to reflect on what had happened and didn't want to comment on the day. It wasn't a decision that had any reflection on the media, he was aware that it may have developed as a story and his emphasis is always on looking forward.

What's happened to the expected new furniture at Club level?

We're not going to put more sitting down furniture in the club level area. We have put more poser tables in the bar area, as opposed to putting more settees and sitting down areas. The level of furniture varies from game to game, depending on the number of people who come in early to have a meal in the restaurants. We're adjusting this and it's another work in progress.

Why are only club-level members allowed to buy alcohol at European matches?

Basically, it's because of the regulations in place for these games. Club level is regarded as a hospitality area and is therefore allowed to sell alcohol.

The stadium announcements are very good, although it is still very hard to hear Arsène Wenger.

We're slowly coming to the conclusion that it is maybe just his voice and not any acoustical problems.

There seems to be problems of stock availability for some items at the Armoury - why is this?

We have a more diverse range of products available and we are slowly identifying what products are selling well and which aren't selling so well. Achieving 100% service levels across all product lines is always difficult. We feel that we have a very good range of Arsenal branded products, which hasn't always been the case in the past. We'll also make sure that the number printed for the Armoury shop is correct in future.

It's difficult to know how much added time there is at the end of games.

There is an announcement, which we may need to make clearer. You're not allowed to have a clock countdown in extra-time.

Can the team photo be done after the transfer deadline?

No. Basically because of the time needed to produce literature, having to submit our team lists to UEFA, means that they have to be done earlier. You should be able to access up-to-date squad photographs via Arsenal pics or UEFA.

The meeting finished at 1.05pm.

Copyright 2014 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source 23 Jul 2008